Cherice Morales: Judge Todd Baugh tries to justify 30-day sentence for teacher who raped student, 14
- Cherice Morales was a troubled 14-year-old high school freshman when teacher Stacey Dean Rambold, then 49, groomed her for sex
- Cherice killed herself while the case was pending and her mother says the sex abuse by the teacher was 'a major factor' in her suicide
- Judge Todd Baugh ruled that Cherice was 'older than her years' and 'as much in control of the situation as the teacher'
- Cherice's mother says judge is blaming the victim
- Judge Todd Baugh later apologized
PUBLISHED: 17:38 EST, 28 August 2013 | UPDATED: 18:04 EST, 28 August 2013
The Montana judge who called a 14-year-old girl who was raped by her teacher then killed herself 'older than her years' tried to defend himself by seeming to trivialize the crimes of the instructor he sent to prison for just 30 days, it was revealed.
'Obviously, a 14-year-old can't consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape,' Judge Todd Baugh told the Billings Gazette. 'It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn't this forcible beat-up rape.'
He later apologized for his words - but not the sentence he handed down, saying it was appropriate based on the specifics of the case.
Stacey Dean Rambold drew a sentence of just one month in jail even though he admitted to a charge of raping Cherice Morales when she was a troubled high school freshman, age 14, at Billings Senior High School in 2008.
She later killed herself weeks before her 17th birthday. Her mother said the affair with Rambold was 'a major factor' in her suicide.
Judge Todd Baugh attempted to defend his remarks about a teenage rape victim by explaining that her sexual contact with a teacher wasn't a 'forcible, beat-up rape'
Tragic: Cherice Morales killed herself just before her 17th birthday while the criminal case against her teacher was pending. As a result, prosecutors had to defer the charges
Cherice's mother stormed
out of the courtroom Monday after he handed down the ruling. Auliea Hanlon later accused Judge Baugh of 'blaming the victim' and said the ruling had made her lose her faith in the justice system.
In the court hearing, Judge Baugh, 66, said that when he reviewed
taped police interviews with Cherice and concluded that even though she
was 35 years younger than Rambold and clearly troubled, she was 'as much
in control of the situation' as the teacher, the Gazette reported.
Judge Baugh also said that Cherice was 'older than her chronological age' - which mitigated Rambold's crimes.
Ms Hanlon said she was outraged by the judge's words.
'As I looked on in disbelief, Judge Baugh stated that our teenage daughter was as much in control of the situation as her teacher was,' she said in a statement.
'She wasn’t even old enough to get a driver’s license. But Judge Baugh, who never met our daughter, justified the paltry sentence saying she was older than her chronological age.
Rambold, 54, lost his house, his job, his teaching license and his wife as a result of the charges. His lawyer suggested he had been 'punished enough'
Fury: Auliea Hanlon, Cherice's mother, said Judge Baugh resorted to 'blaming the victim' and pointed out that her daughter wasn't even old enough to drive a car
'I guess somehow it makes a rape more acceptable if you blame the victim, even if she was only 14.'
Outraged Montanans are organizing protests outside the courthouse in Billings and the Montana National Organization for Women has asked the state to investigate whether Rambold's sentence can be made longer.
Activists have also began calling for challengers to step up and run against the judge, who is seeking a fifth term in office in 2014. He has been unopposed for at least the last two elections.
On Wednesday, Judge Baugh backtracked and issued an apology.
'I don't know what I was thinking or trying to say. It was just stupid and wrong,' he told the Gazette.
He added: 'What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing. My apologies to all my fellow citizens.'
At the hearing Monday, attorneys for Rambold, 54, said the teacher has lost his job, his license, his house and his wife and suffered the 'scarlet letter of the Internet' as a result of the allegations. Defense lawyer Jay Lansing said his client had been punished enough for his crime.
Judge Baugh said he disagreed with the decision to prosecute Rambold after he was kicked out of sex offender treatment program - announced last week that he is running for re-election and is thus far unopposed.
It was later revealed that administrators at Billings Senior High School had warned Rambold not to touch female students or be alone with them
The Billings Gazette reports that Rambold was arrested in 2008 after police and administrators at Billings Senior High School learned that he had targeted 14-year-old Cherice, a troubled freshman at the school, and groomed her for sex.
The school district had warned Rambold four years earlier to avoid touching or being alone with female students, it was later revealed. The district paid Cherice's mother $96,000 as part of a wrongful death settlement.
The teacher, who was then 49, was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent and prosecutors allege he had an ongoing sexual relationship with the girl.
Just before her 17th birthday and while the case on still pending, Cherice killed herself.
Her fault? Judge Todd Baugh ruled that Cherice was 'older than her chronological age' and that in listening to the girl's police interviews, he came to believe that she was in control of the relationship with her teacher
The girl's mother, Auliea Hanlon, says that Rambold's sexual abuse was a 'major factor' in her daughter's suicide.
Gazette reports that with the girl's death, prosecutors were forced to
defer prosecution. They agreed to dismiss the case if Rambold admitted
to one count of rape and agreed to enter a three-stage sex offender
In December, prosecutors revived the case and re-filed charges after they learned that the teacher had been kicked out of the program for having unsupervised visits with minors.
Rambold's defense lawyer said those minors were his family members.The attorney said Rambold was attending another treatment program and was considered a low risk to re-offend.
Judge Baugh seemed to agree. He said that the former teacher's violations at the sex offender treatment program were not enough to warrant prosecution.
Ms Hanlon, Cherice's mother, stormed out of the courtroom when the judge handed down the ruling and shouted 'You people suck!' at the judge.
JUDGE WHO GAVE PREDATOR TEACHER 30 DAYS IS JAIL IS RUNNING FOR FIFTH TERM ON THE BENCH
Montana District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh announced on Monday that Cherice Morales seemed just as responsible for a sexual relationship with her teacher Stacey Dean Rambold as the teacher was - even though Cherice was troubled and only 14 at the time.
He also pronounced that the girl, who killed herself two years later, appeared to be 'older than her chronological age.'
Baugh, 66, is running for a fifth term overseeing cases in Montana's 13th Judicial District. He has been on the bench since 1986.
He announced on August 21 that he is running for re-election. So far, he is running unopposed.
He recently told KULR-TV: 'When I was younger I thought, "By golly, by the time I get to be 66, I'll be way old and ready to retire," but then I discovered when I got here that I’m not.'
If re-elected in 2014, he would serve another six-year term.
He ran unopposed in 2008 and 2002, state elections records show.
He is the son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback 'Slingin'' Sammy Baugh.
Baugh did not return a call from MailOnline seeking comment on the case.
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